Infernax Review – A Bit of the Ol’ Ultraviolence
Developed by Berzerk Studios
Published by The Arcade Crew
Available on PlayStation 4, Xbox Series X and Series S, Xbox One, PC, Nintendo Switch
Ever since I did a preview of Infernax, and I was introduced to the world of Upel and its inhabitants, I’ve wanted to go back. The 45 minutes of the original demo got me so hyped. If you read my stuff, you know I’ve been on a months-long metroidvania kick, and I’m happy to report Infernax is currently the best one I’ve played this year. Granted, it is only February, so something might come out of nowhere and absolutely blow me away, but I doubt it would knock Infernax off of my list of all-time great metroidvanias. I’m just super high on this game.
You play as Alcedor, Duke of Upel. You return from a long time away to see that something really bad is going on in your homeland. Someone done goofed around and summoned all sorts of nasties. It’s your job to give them the righteous power of your mace. The mace doesn’t have near the reach of something out of a Belmont arsenal, but it does quick and violent work to the ghastly denizens of Upel. Infernax doesn’t let you rest on your combat laurels, though, with a huge selection of beasts and ghouls to smash up. The enemy variety is impressive, and each one is lovingly rendered in Infernax’s retro NES style. Each enemy also has multiple unique death animations. Why, you ask? Well, because unlike the games and era it takes inspiration from, Infernax is terrifically violent.
You’ll be crushing in heads, and knocking zombies in half. Sometimes their heads will go tumbling across the screen from the impact of the blow. It really sets an over-the-top tone that Infernax rides high on throughout. As you travel through Upel, you’ll discover that five beats hold five gems locking the door to the cathedral where this whole mess started. You’ll be going through area Mega Man-style hunting down the holders of these gems. Where Infernax stands out from something like Mega Man is that the five big demons are your target, for sure, but there is so much more to do than go and kill them. Sidequests dot the small towns you’ll roll through. One person asked me to go kill a skeleton haunting a grave, another asked me to enter their dream and slay the evil entity living there.
The amount of things to do in Infernax is just staggering. Each new area presents new NPCs with new missions. You won’t be sticking with your original mace throughout fortunately. Different vendors around the world will offer you improvements for your mace and armor. Wizard shops will sell you new spells, because there is spellcasting in Infernax. The best spells, armor and weapons aren’t available at stores, and the search for these rare tools of violence is one of the funnest parts of Infernax. You’re encouraged to explore everywhere. These secrets aren’t just hidden behind breakable walls. No, you’ll be finding entire secret areas with their own bosses if you want to get the most of what Infernax has to offer.
I finished the story in 8 hours, after digging through every place I could find, and I felt confident that I had discovered everything Infernax had. I was completely and utterly wrong. I checked my bestiary, and there were 10+ spots missing just for bosses. That’s not counting enemies I hadn’t encountered, just the bosses. The mistake I made, was ignoring the morality system. Infernax will occasionally present you with a quest, or a decision. These decisions affect how the game will play out. I stupidly expected the choices to not affect literally everything. Your choices absolutely matter in Infernax. I spoke with the writer of the game, who let me know that a full playthrough like I did is a full game’s worth, but I was welcome to go again and make some different decisions.
I had done my original playthrough as a pretty good dude, trying to save the world from the demon scourge. In my second playthrough, I went full bastard. I am pleased to say that playing as a different morality completely changes the game. It was longer this time, for one thing. My second playthrough clocked in at about 10 hours. I won’t spoil what you have to do for all the endings, but there are a lot of them. Infernax is just so easy to pick up and get going, that you’ll find yourself craving the content you didn’t discover. You’d think a sidescrolling metroidvania RPG like Infernax would be difficult, and you would be right, in a sense. There are two difficulty options: Classic and casual. I did my first playthrough on casual. There’s more save points, and if you die, you just lose a bit of XP and money and start over. Then, there’s classic.
Classic is exactly how you remember old sidescrollers. If you lose all your lives, you’re going back to the last save point, and losing everything. I did my second playthrough on classic. Infernax never felt frustrating, even on the classic difficulty. It was a challenge I was all too familiar with from my youth playing just about every sidescroller the SNES could throw at me. By doing an evil playthrough, I got to discover all these new challenges on a harder difficulty, and I loved every second of it. The platforming is tight, so frustration stays low. Upgrades to damage, health, and mana keep you from feeling outclassed and outpaced by enemies. I experienced ideal Infernax: A challenging platformer, with plenty of replayability.
Infernax does something that a lot of games of its ilk have a hard time with: It seamlessly blends old-school platformer gameplay with modern mechanics without feeling too much like one or the other. It is a perfect balance. Truly the “have your cake and eat it too” of metroidvanias. If you have any interest in the genre or are a fan, you’d be absolutely insane to miss Infernax.